Who is Rose Hanbury and how does she tie into the Kate Middleton drama?

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Kate Middleton reportedly spotted shopping in Windsor amid health speculations
LATEST: Kate Middleton reportedly spotted shopping in Windsor amid health speculations. – Mar 19, 2024

Rose Hanbury has entered the chat.

Amid the unfolding Kate Middleton drama an additional player has appeared, sending social media off on another tangent of unfounded gossip and conspiracy theories.

In Britian’s aristocratic circles she’s known as Lady Rose Hanbury, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley (pronounced “Chumley”), and has long been linked to the British Royal Family through her well-heeled family and their prestigious place in British high society.

FILE – Rose Hanbury attends a book launch in 2005. Dave Benett / Getty Images

For years, the royal gossip mill has speculated that Hanbury is Prince William’s alleged mistress, though it has never been proven. Rumblings of a possible affair first surfaced among royal watchers in 2019 and now, amid wild speculation of the Princess of Wales’ whereabouts and a series of missteps by the Kensington Palace PR machine, her name has resurfaced in connection with the drama.

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KATE MIDDLETON LATEST: Kate Middleton video does little to curb rampant online conspiracies

The rumour kicked into high gear this week. The Late Show host Stephen Colbert even addressed it in his opening monologue on Tuesday night’s show. (You can watch below.)

Here’s what you need to know about Lady Rose, how she’s connected to the royal family and how these resurfaced rumours have been given new life.

How are the Hanburys connected to the Royal Family?

Sarah Rose Hanbury was born on March 15, 1984 to her parents, Timothy Hanbury and Emma Longman. She is one of three children, with an older sister and a younger brother.

Timothy and Emma were both designers: she worked in fashion and interior design, while he worked in website design.

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Long before Rose Hanbury was connected to the Prince and Princess of Wales, the family was connected to the royals. Her maternal grandmother, Lady Elizabeth Lambart, was one of Queen Elizabeth II’s bridesmaids at her 1947 wedding to Prince Philip.

Hanbury attended a prestigious boarding school and upon graduation undertook an Open University degree and began working as a model at the age of 23.

FILE – Rose Hanbury attends the Leon Max Winter Dinner and Dance for ‘Too Many Women’ in support of Breakthrough Breast Cancer at Claridges Hotel on December 1, 2011 in London, England. Dave M. Benett / Getty Images

Around this time, she met her now-husband, David George Philip Rocksavage, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley. The pair started dating in 2006, causing a bit of a stir, as he is 23 years her senior.

Hanbury and Rocksavage announced their engagement in June 2009 and wed two days later. Just a few months later, in October of 2009, they welcomed twin boys into the world, who were born prematurely ahead of their January 2010 due date. A baby girl, Iris, was born a little less than seven years later.

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Click to play video: 'Kate Middleton reportedly spotted with Prince William at Windsor farm'
Kate Middleton reportedly spotted with Prince William at Windsor farm

Hanbury’s connection to William and Kate

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The couple is said to have struck up a friendship with the young royals after they settled into the palatial Houghton Hall, which is right down the road from the royal estate, Sandringham.

It’s believed Hanbury and Middleton became fast friends when Middleton would visit her future husband at Sandringham. Later, when William and Middleton moved into Anmer Hall on Sandringham Estate following their 2011 wedding, the Cambridges and Cholmondeleys developed a strong friendship.

FILE – Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attend a gala dinner in support of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices’ nook appeal at Houghton Hall on June 22, 2016 in King’s Lynn, England. They are pictured walking with Rose Hanbury. Stephen Pond / Getty Images

Living a stone’s throw from the royal couple earned the Marchioness an invite to a number of royal functions over the years. In 2017, she was spotted sitting next to Prince Harry at a Buckingham Palace state banquet and in 2022 she attended the memorial service for Prince Philip and the funeral for Queen Elizabeth.

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In April 2023, it was announced that their son Oliver would serve as one of the pages at the coronation for King Charles, alongside heir to the throne, Prince George.

Prince George of Wales (in his role as Page of Honour) and Page of Honour Lord Oliver Cholmondeley watch an RAF flypast from the balcony of Buckingham Palace following the Coronation of King Charles III & Queen Camilla at Westminster Abbey on May 6, 2023 in London, England. Max Mumby / Indigo / Getty Images

Igniting the rumour mill

In 2019, rumours of a rift between Hanbury, William and Middleton began circulating, with the tabloids claiming the royal couple had a falling out with the Marchioness.

Around the same time, rumblings of an alleged affair between the Prince and Hanbury began popping up after a British tabloid published a story claiming that William cheated on his wife while she was pregnant with Prince Louis.

FILE – Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attend a gala dinner in support of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices’ nook appeal at Rose Hanbury’s residence, Houghton Hall, on June 22, 2016 in King’s Lynn, England. Stephen Pond / Getty Images

Kensington Palace has denied those rumours, but with this month’s speculation into Middleton’s health, the rumours have gained a new foothold.

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Click to play video: 'Stephen Colbert ‘spills the tea’ on latest Kate Middleton rumours'
Stephen Colbert ‘spills the tea’ on latest Kate Middleton rumours

William, Middleton and Hanbury have never directly addressed the claims, allowing the rumours to fester and take on a life of their own. Throughout history British royal mistresses and affairs have been well documented, but infidelities are rarely addressed by those participating.

Royal expert Omid Scobie told Entertainment Tonight last year, ahead of his royal biography Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival, that he hasn’t “(seen) proof that there is more to this than just tittle-tattle.”

He added that because the rumours have never been addressed head-on, it’s likely they will “never go away.”

“Unfortunately, if a rumour is left to kind of do its own thing, it can run 20 laps around the world before you even think about what, how you want to kind of address it,” he said. “They never addressed it, so those rumors will never go away even though there’s no truth to suggest that they are true.”

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FILE – Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge are greeted by Rose Hanbury, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley as they attend a gala dinner in support of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices’ nook appeal at Houghton Hall on June 22, 2016 in King’s Lynn, England. Stephen Pond / Getty Images

What caused the rumour to resurface?

Royal watchers, increasingly hellbent to find out more about Middleton’s health after her abdominal surgery earlier this year, latched onto a photograph of the Princess and her three children that was released by Kensington Palace over the weekend.

Before a “kill notice” was issued for the photo by five major press agencies over suspicions of manipulation, the public noticed the Princess was not wearing her wedding rings in the photo.

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Some defended her, saying that it’s possible she had removed the rings for the duration of her recovery (a time when fingers are known to fluctuate in size), or perhaps she doesn’t wear her rings that often at home.

It’s not often that Middleton doesn’t wear her large, blue sapphire engagement ring that once belonged to her mother-in-law. It is a regular part of her ensemble in official photographs and appearances, leaving people to wonder if there was a larger reason she wouldn’t be wearing it.

Middleton eventually issued a mea culpa, admitting to occasionally editing her photographs and apologizing “for any confusion” caused by sharing a manipulated image, but by then the damage had been done and many watchers dismissed any suggestion that the lack of rings was an oversight, believing instead that something more sinister was going on.

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What is the Palace doing?

Even to the most casual observer, it looks like the wheels are coming off at Kensington Palace. By keeping Middleton’s health issues under lock and key, in an attempt to offer her privacy in her recovery from abdominal surgery, the public has become so voracious for updates that it’s become a full-on feeding frenzy of scrutiny, coverage, gossip and debate.

Both online conversation and traditional media in the U.K. were dominated Tuesday by what the Daily Mirror called the “Picture of Chaos” and the Daily Mail labelled a “PR disaster” for the royals.

The tabloid Sun leapt to the princess’ defence with a front page that thundered: “Lay off Kate.” The tabloid said “social media trolls, idiotic conspiracy theorists and sniping media critics” were bullying the future queen.

The Palace, a taxpayer-funded institution, hasn’t helped matters by refusing to release the original image or images that were used to create the doctored Middleton portrait, resulting in more spiralling speculation — the kind they were likely hoping to curb by releasing the photo in the first place.

In their attempt to “control the narrative,” the pendulum has swung so far the other way that now the Palace is backed into a corner. Their credibility took a major blow this week and, no matter what move they make next, the public has signalled that they will likely have a hard time believing it.

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Stephanie Baker, senior lecturer in sociology at City University of London, said social media amplifies that chatter and allows the creation of “crowd sourced conspiracy theories” that can spread around the globe.

“The most serious issue for the Princess of Wales and the monarchy in light of the photoshopped image is the erosion of trust and credibility,” she told the Associated Press.

Click to play video: 'Kate Middleton photo continues to spark questions'
Kate Middleton photo continues to spark questions

If the past week has proven anything, the internet is clearly adept at cooking up new nonsense and out-there theories surrounding Middleton with every hour that passes, which eventually get magnified on social media sites like X and TikTok. As we’ve seen this week with the resurfacing of Hanbury, some of these rumours and outright lies can be very hard to shake, even years down the road.

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With files from The Associated Press

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